Today is 40 years since the death of science-fiction writer Philip. K. Dick (1928 – 1982), an American author who created addictive dystopian worlds where advanced technologies compete with humanity, where space-travel is not only available and optional, but at times essential to evade planetary catastrophes, and where drug-induced hallucinations become a new reality for all. The science-fiction books of Philip. K. Dick may not be the height of mastery in terms of their execution and in some ways do remain products of their time, but no one can deny their unparalleled creativity in setting out intriguing worlds of the future where there are layers and layers of unfathomable realities just beneath the one you see.
I. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 
Few people have not heard of this book, or if they have not, they have surely heard of Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner , which (and I would say it very frankly) is only loosely based on this sci-fi novel. In this story, set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, possessing a real live animal have become a social status akin to being one of the richest persons on earth because so few of them are in existence and, androids and humans co-exist in a world torn by the devastating effects of the recent nuclear war. Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, has a task of “retiring” a number of criminally-minded androids who have recently escaped from Mars. The success of this book, and the film, lies in a way it taps into the very essence of our humanity – what makes us – us? Our thoughts, our memories, our emotions? If all of these can be “replicated”, does our sense of humanity become redundant? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a great sci-fi full of irony and suspense that was unfairly overshadowed by its cinematic counterpart.
II. A Scanner Darkly 
This is probably the most “hard-hitting” books of all the author’s creations, dealing with the dark nature of reality from the perspective of drug addicts and their world. In future, people can be roughly grouped into “straights” and “drug addicts”, and, amidst all the undercover police operations and rehabilitation centres that are designed to “crack down” on drugs that simulate perfect happiness, there is this feeling that everyone may just be losing their grip on reality. A Scanner Darkly must have the most thought-provoking and emotional ending of all Philip K. Dick books. The animated film with Keanu Reeves was released in 2006.
III. Ubik 
If I were to pick only one book from this list based purely on my enjoyment of it, it would definitely be Ubik. Where to start? In future, humanity finally managed to tap into psychic powers to reach unprecedented levels of power and control over others, and death is finally “conquered” – somewhat. Our main character is Joe Chip, an employee of a psychic agency, whose world turns upside down…again and again, as he tries to cling desperately to reality…or to a state he thinks is his reality. Ubik is a literary roller-coaster ride you would not want to end.
IV. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldricht 
The success of PKD books lies in the fact that they almost always “hit the ground running” and present complex philosophical and psychological issues and ideas in a fast-paced and entertaining format. The Three Stigmata is no exception and is another crazy ride. Is perfect paranoia really perfect awareness? This story is set in distant future and follows Barney Mayerson, an employee of a company in business to make people enjoy fully their “drug trips”, which have become commonplace. Businesses compete with each other to simulate the most perfect reality for their customers, that is until Palmer Eldritch, a man who lived in another galaxy, returns to Earth and is said to possess the most potent drug yet. The Three Stigmata is a bit chaotic, a bit confusing, a bit caricaturish, but unmistakably visionary, and hence, unputdownable.
V. A Maze of Death 
What do you get when you fuse Philip K. Dick’s psychedelic imagination that turns the concepts of time, identity and reality on their heads with Agatha Christie’s claustrophobic And Then There Were None one-location setting? A Maze of Death, a thrilling story of “fourteen people who find themselves on a remote and strange planet Delmark-O…and in danger – a mysterious force is also on the planet and is…killing them one by one”. This is an engaging story with that one big twist right at the end which certainly makes this book worth reading.
VI. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said 
In this book, Philip K. Dick is concerned with personal identity, celebrity-culture and authoritarian society, focusing on one TV personality who awakes one morning and finds that he has become a “non-entity” (maybe falling just slightly short of the Kafkaesque meaning of this word), a man whom nobody now recognises and who cannot even locate his identity papers…so the “fun” begins. There is a lot of ideas here that were later successfully used in such films as Memento, Donnie Darko, Inception and Looper, but PKD was there first.
VII. Dr Bloodmoney 
This book was a wild journey, indeed, presenting a post-nuclear-catastrophe world where humans still deal with the disastrous effect of radiation, trying to guess the location of one man who apparently brought it all about – Dr. Bluthgeld. Here, outcasts have a real chance of becoming heroes and a number of characters’ lives intersect leading to a dramatic climax. This book is both a fast-paced sci-fi about one dystopian society at odds with itself and “a thought-provoking satire on the survival of a community in times of a crisis”.
VIII. The Simulacra 
In this multiple-perspective story, PKD welcomes you into the world where famous musicians can play their pianos by mind alone, where the supremacy of First Lady in White House is undisputed, where migration to Mars is commonplace, where a strict hierarchical structure means that you can be anyone (or anything?) from Be to Ge, where time-travel machines exist, where psychoanalysis is outlawed in favour of drugs, and where simulacra built by humans can really imitate live animals and people. This novel requires some patience at the start, but it soon transforms into a delicious thrill of imaginary dystopia and political satire.
IX. Martian Time-Slip 
This book introduces us to a future society on Mars where people struggle to secure a water supply. Discriminatory practices abound and minorities are marginalised, as Mars’s tribe of hunter-gatherers coexists uneasily with high-flying businessmen determined to profit fully from their control over the red planet. Meanwhile, the society’s “anomalous” children may hold key to the future. This book may not have aged all that well, but Dick still presents an enticing world of a myriad of mind-boggling possibilities.
X. Time Out of Joint 
In this story, the author introduces quiet suburban America and Ragle Gumm, a man known to repeatedly win lotteries. His ability to predict future accurately may be useful to lunar colonists who fight for independence from Earth. It is hard to guess reality in this brainy novel which also makes a pun on America’s culture of conformity and uniformity of the 1950s.